The Clint Frazier experience has been a strange one for the Yankees. For all of the talent that he possesses, he comes with just as many drawbacks as positives. I don’t think I have to go over all of them again.
Given that, it was a bit of a surprise that the Yankees hung onto Frazier at the trade deadline this year. Either the Yankees didn’t think they were offered a fair return, or maybe they were willing to give him another chance. Former top-five draft picks with “legendary bat speed” don’t grow on trees, after all.
Still, if one were to rank the Yankees most likely to be traded this offseason, Frazier would probably be number one. That is, until the news broke that starting center fielder Aaron Hicks will need Tommy John surgery, which will sideline him until the All-Star Break.
You hear that? It’s opportunity knocking yet again for Frazier with the Yankees.
With Hicks out, there’s a huge hole in the outfield. The Yankees will likely re-sign Brett Gardner and task him with starting in center field until Hicks comes back, which seems like a win-win. Aaron Judge is set in right field, Mike Tauchman is the fourth outfielder, and Giancarlo Stanton will rotate between left field and designated hitter.
Of course, injuries will happen. The Yankees only have three big-league outfielders on the roster (four if they re-sign Gardner), which is not enough for a season. They could look to bring Cameron Maybin back, but he may have played himself into a larger role somewhere else. Besides, as great as Maybin was this year, he’s never been that good a player over the rest of his 13-year MLB career.
The Yankees wouldn’t be wise to just expect Gardner, Tauchman and Maybin to all be as good as they were in 2019 next season, as well as bank on full health from Stanton and Judge. In that respect, it’s a good thing that the Yankees have a potential MLB-level starter in the minors waiting for his chance.
While the Yankees actually have a pressing need for Frazier in the outfield, his trade value is also probably much lower than the Yankees seem to think it is. Frazier is 25 years old now, and he’s no longer a prospect. Over 123 MLB games, a pretty healthy sample size, he’s hit 16 home runs and slashed .254/.308/.463. Those are good numbers, but also not numbers that any other GM will be banging down the door for. Factor in Frazier’s injury history and his various conflicts with the team and the media, and I think it’s safe to say that Frazier most likely isn’t viewed as a headliner in any potential deal for a starting pitcher.
Selling Frazier for pennies on the dollar wouldn’t be a good move for the Yankees, especially when they need an outfielder. This isn’t like trying to trade A.J. Burnett in 2011 or Sonny Gray in 2018; the Yankees actually have use for Frazier, and he isn’t a non-contributor.
I’ve gone up and down on Frazier many times as a Yankees fan. I was a huge supporter in 2017 when he lit it up on his first call-up, and I enjoyed the spark he played with. This past year, he lost me when he called out the media, repeatedly made blunders in the field, and may not have handled his demotion to Triple-A the most gracefully.
To be honest, I didn’t expect him to still be with the Yankees to this point, but now that he is still here, the Yankees should maximize his value by playing him in 2020. If he comes into spring training motivated to show the Yankees what he can do to help them win, there’s no reason for him not to play.